SERIES - Your First 50 Pages
Part 6 of 8 - Introducing Your Antagonist
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Your story needs an antagonist; it's essential in fiction writing, and non-negotiable. Both the protagonist and the antagonist should have strong emotional issues that stand in the way of their goals. The antagonist provides the momentum for your plot to continue forward motion. You need to establish firmly in the reader's mind who the antagonist is and what they're about.
What do you think of when I say 'antagonist'? Are you visualizing an evil person? Or perhaps a monster, ghost, or animal? Good, these are all good possibilities for an antagonist. But an antagonist doesn't have to live and breath as a warmblooded creature. The antagonist can be an inner turmoil (character against self) or even an environmental element (tornado). Think of an antagonist as someone or something that causes opposition, and opposition is the most important element of your story. Without it, where's the story going?
The antagonist doesn't need to be introduced before any other character, though it is an effective strategy. Like the protagonist, the antagonist pursues the story's goal. What if there are more than one antagonist - say a group of people who are in pursuit of the story's goal - what then? Simply, the character who takes the lead role in pursuit is the main antagonist.
Do you have to introduce the antagonist in the first 50 pages? Of course not. It's your story. Do what works for you. But keep in mind the audience you're writing to. Are they used to getting this bit of information early in the book? If you don't introduce the antagonist early, will you have enough of a story to propel the reader forward until they meet him/her/it; and will you be able to do it without info dumping and a lot of back story?
If you've developed a strong theme your reader will have a good understanding of what the story is really about. It is, according to Charters in The Story and Its Writer, "[t]he central, unifying point or idea that is made concrete, developed and explored in the action and the imagery of a work of fiction."
Remember when creating your antagonist that completely evil people are nearly nonexistent. Give them their own set of motivations and unique characteristics. Make your antagonist more complex than a standard evil villain and you'll hook your reader, ultimately achieving your prime objective - keep the reader turning pages.
Are you having difficulty with your antagonist? Who or what is one of your favorite antagonists?
Don't forget the special offer noted above. Be one of the first 4 to leave a comment and provide your name and email address and I'll give you a free critique of your first chapter!
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All my best,
Dee Ann Waite - Author of The Consequential Element
As a special offer, I'm offering the first 4 commenters a free critique of their first chapter.